« AnteriorContinuar »
Xjet any man take up his pen with the intention of writing the history, or even a mere sketch, of his own. life, he will presently find himself in a kind of dilemma, or labyrinth, without clue or guide to conduet him through the windings, intricacies and numerous difficulties, that immediately present themselves to his view!—However proficient and expert he may be in all the minor qualities and capabilities required for such a task, in having at command an easy and fe
licitoiis flow of expression, a happy tact in the nc cessary formation and equally necessary combination of well-chosen words, fit phrases, and all the technical requisites for plain diction, or the more pure and polished periods of elaborate elocution ;—however vivid his recollection of past events and their relative circumstances ;—however crowded and richly stored the warehouse of his memory—yet, notwithstanding all this, when he casts his mind's eye over the mass of materials before him, he will find, from the confused state in which they lie, without order or arrangement, that they serve lather to impede than to assist him in the business he has undertaken. Consequently it will be his principal task to make a proper selection, and duly exercise his judgment, in relating only what is worthy of being known, either as matter of fact, utility, or amusement. The danger in most cases, is rather that one may say too much, than too little: perhaps the middle path will be the safest to pursue, in order to please the many different tastes and opinions of the generality of readers. Besides, there may possibly be as much wisdom displayed in suppressing some circumstances, as there would be wit in relating them. It is allowed to be so in poetry, then why not in prose, and in writings of every description? Popo has told us, that, with regard to Terse,
"Posts lose half the praise they would have got
Now the author of the following rambling notes must claim the negative merit of having blotted much, yet * still preserved a strict adherence to the cause of truth
wherever it can be serviceable, and an occasional indulgence of the fancy, where it can be exercised without any ill consequences.
In the path intended to be pursued, nothing shall foe stated as fact, but such as really is so; but in topics of any other kind, a little recourse will be had to fancy, in order to awaken the attention of every reader who may deign to glance at these inaccurate and rambling observations.
It should be premised that these pages are written under circumstances somewhat provoking; the author being from home and having with him but few of his wonted books, documents and memorandums, in a certain degree necessary to assist his memory and recal to him the images and pleasing associations of his younger days.
Authors, in general, and the whole fraternity of critics, from Longinus of ancient times, to the Annual, Quarterly, Monthly, and Diurnal Scribes of the present hour, have laid it down as an established rule and well founded axiom, that every poetic composition that aspires to the honor of being considered an Epic, should have the necessary requisites for such a work; —viz: a beginning, a middle, and an endl— A common understanding may not, perhaps, perceive any difficulty in this. For my own part, I should humbly conceive that an Epic Poem, however short,—say, only of ten thousand lines !!—I should (with all possible deference to better judgments) venture to surmise that the first lint was the actual beginning; tht
two thousand five hundredth couplet about the middle; and that the nine thousand nine hundred and ninety ninth line was very near the end !! —This is what a man of a simple way of thinking would naturally affirm; but poets have not only the figures of poetry at their command, but have also a kind of poetical arithmetic of their own, which produces very different results from the calculations that generally proceed from the plain prosaic understandings of common men.
Since the foregoing maxims were broached with regard to poems, similar ones have been uttered respecting all other kinds of writing; of poets themselves and of authors in general and more especially of those who write any thing of an historical nature, be it only the history of their own lives! They are expected to begin with the beginning-, and end with the end! All authors, like other culprits, say the oracles, ought to give a satisfactory story, a right and true account' of their "birth, parentage, character, and education," if not of their "unfortunate career, and its fatal termination!!" This, however, is a matter of taste, and may be pardonably omitted.
. Now it happens rather unluckily for the present purpose, that having promised to offer simple records of real events, to state plain facts in as plain a manner as possible, and to depend on my own personal knowledge for the truth of my statements:—now it happens somewhat unfortunately that the first fact necessary to be spoken of, should be one that I absolutely know nothing at all about!—I mean the certain time of my birth! On this point, I must, like all other men» be satisfied with hearsay evidence only. I was told* while a boy, that I was born on the twenty-seventh of October 1765; and I have never since that period had any reason to doubt the truth of the information. On the contrary, the event itself, the house, the very room and other matters have been pointed out to me with % degree of precision that is ascertain, and ten times more explicitly descriptive of such events, than a Parish flegister!
The person to whom I allude, and on whose authority the above circumstances are stated, is one of my oldest friends, Mr. George Baxter, and therefore he is thus selected to stand foremost in the motley pages of these memoirs. This gentleman is well known in the county of Nottingham, as a very intelligent, industrious, well-informed character: somewhat singular in his habits and manners, but as obliging as he is entertaining, social and agreeable, and at all times and on all occasions extremely communicative and moreover universally respected. But to proceed.—It is sometimes rather difficult to trace back to their original source, the first •ause or causes of our principal errors and most prominent transgressions. If the first knowledge and real love of Letters be a fault, it ought to be attributed to the persons who were most instrumental in pointing out to me the flowery pathways that first led me astray, of which some account shall presently be given. If there was any crime in forming an attachment for the Drama and ultimately embracing the Stage as a profession, that crime must, in a certain degree, be shared 'amongst my friends, whose plaudits encouraged me